9 pm, US EST, 1 pm Australian time.

With counting underway in New Hampshire, early results are showing a clear victory for McCain – no surprises there – and a close fight between Obama and Clinton, with the the latter leading by 39% to 36% with 40% of precincts reporting.

A Clinton victory would of course be an upset within the upset. What had been hitherto thought a lay-down misere for her, became an Obama landslide in the last 24 hours — and may still be, depending on where the votes counted have come from.

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The early figures have come like a sugar rush, because exit polls have been quarantined all day by the major news organisations, in apparent fearfulness that the production of such polls while people are still voting would create a feedback loop — thus preserving the fiction that NH is not some weird simulacrum already. Obama had an easy win in the folksy midnight votes at Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, but as the National Review noted, these votes have no predictive power whatsoever.

In today’s vacuum, the world’s media were reduced to covering sideshows. Veteran second-wave feminist Gloria Stenheim wrote a pro-Hillary oped in the New York Times arguing that it was harder for a woman than a black man to break through the white male power structure to which, in so far as it regards Hillary, one can only echo third wave feminist Lleyton Hewitt and say OH COME ON! Meanwhile, a woman was so overcome with emotion at an Obama gig that she fainted “Is she alright? Yeah, I think I saw her move a little”, which could have referred equally well to his opponent.

But the pseph gist was this: that the 40% of voters registered independent piled into the Democrat primary to launch Obama into the stratosphere. The turn out has been phenomenal by all accounts – up to half a million voters, up from the previous record of about 410,000, with some polling stations running out of ballot papers. Obama’s candidacy is creating a new sub-category — the ‘Obama Republicans’, a sort of antimatter version of the ‘Blue dog’ Democrats (read: battlers) that have emerged from time to time to push Nixon, Reagan etc over the line. Obama’s youth, inspirational speechifying, strong on abstractions — the audacity of hope, the hope of audacity — apparently act as a tonic to battered and bruised patriots.

Given the Republican field, no wonder. McCain’s desperation to win has been so naked, his grin so fixed and coprophagic that he appears to have leached out of himself every last trace of the spirit that made him the maverick Republican beloved of The Daily Show and other such liberal hotbeds. Romney is bland without gaining any advantage from it, his Mormonism sorting him into the crazee bin as far as a protestant New England state is concerned. If he stays on 28%, it’s a pretty good result for him.

Huckabee was never going to win. Quite aside from his literally antediluvian beliefs, some of his policies have more than whiff of the hydrogen-car about them. To suggest abolishing income tax in a society with – despite its rhetoric – an enormous public and welfare sector (to say nothing of the military) is too whacky for moderates and old hat to the more way-out – New Hampshire has abolished income tax already. Yet if it turns out that the independents are focused on the Democrats, reverend Mike may do better than the the figures above suggest, as it will effectively narrow the gap between himself and McCain.

With his close-to-home turf of South Carolina the next big contest (those in between are diminished by the possibility that their delegates may not be seated), an eventual respectable loss for Huckabee would strengthen his plausibility.

Most analysts presume that tsunami Tuesday — with big, post-medieval states like California and New York voting — will wipe him out, but the last southern christian they said wouldn’t make the distance was some peanut farmer from Georgia. The South will rise again y’all, and then (to quote The Onion) find the remote and collapse back onto the couch.

Check the Crikey website for updates.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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